It is dreadfully rude to carry a fishknife whilst talking to a Merman or Mermaid, as they think of them as we would think of thumbscrews or other torture devices.
The local band of 'nasties' (goblins / orcs / whatever) lives in relative peace with the local population.
Along come the PCs and go through their usual heroic monster bashing routine, wiping out the nasties and pinching all their stuff, then continue on their way.
Problem is, they don't kill ALL he nasties. The survivors want revenge and, after spending a few months recovering, start to take it in their own inimitable style (which is not unlike that of the PCs come to think of it).
Next time the PCs are in the area they find themselves VERY unpopular with the townsfolk.
A plague has hit the local area.
In humans it affects only the most vulnerable, the children and the very old, and even than it's little more than a summer cold. 24 hours of sniffles and then it's gone, barely noticeable really.
To sheep however it is fatal and the whole economy of the area is in serious trouble. If this keeps up the area could well be facing famine.
Somebody (enter the PCs) must find the rare herbs needed to make a cure.
Patterns in surnames: There are many ways a surname could have evolved over centuries. One possibility is migration. A Roman name may have traveled to France and hence to England where it was later Anglicized. Case in point - the surname Lawrence went from Laurentius (Roman) to Laurent (French) to Lawrence (English) and then to Lowry (Scottish). There is also natural etymological evolution. For example, a Middle English spelling may have evolved to a modern English spelling (e.g. Stiward to Stewart). Where did your character's Surname come from?
Surnames: Most surnames fall into one of four categories. Patronymic surnames such as Johnson pass from father to son (literally, 'Son of John'). Occupational surnames such as Cook or Miller stem from an individual's livelihood. Topographic names such as Forest or Ford identify habitation. There are also a few surnames that derive from individual characteristics or nicknames...Small and Stern for example.
Surnames: The Chinese were among the very first cultures to adopt the use of hereditary surnames (around 2800 BC). But the custom didn't quite catch on in Europe - at least not until the Venetian aristocracy made it popular sometime between the 10th and 11th centuries AD. What culture made it popular in your setting and why?
A world whose lands are made up of huge terrain spheres that rotate constantly with most portion underwater. As time passes, the shape of the bodies of water change, landmarks shift inside the new border lines, and mountains tilt to different degrees. Land dwellers are gypsies that can never build anything permanent, and somewhat ironically, the only stable settlements are large structures built at sea.
There are no scrolls in this world, but there are crystals of various sizes, colors and qualities. Every spell has a requirement on the amount and characteristics of crystals that must be held in order for the spell to be cast, crystals which would shatter should the cast be successful. Now picture a land where crystals are scarce except for high concentrations of them in specific spots throughout the land. A number of scenarios could occur, such as benign companies selling the mined valuable for cheap, a region in constant magic-intense war zone, an area of crystals in the quicksand, or an undiscovered patch next to a town...
In cultures and langauges with very few acceptable personal and family names, nicknames will be used. These nicknames will be based on their physical traits and personalities. So instead of five Ryon Khans, you have Big Ryon, Little Ryon, Fast Ryon, Ryon the Priest, and Ryon with coin. It will make finding people, for an outsider, difficult.
Want to avoid fighter types focusing on swords? Make Longswords and Bastardswords the weapon of the Noble class, with a death penalty for other to carry. These weapons will be ornate and finally crafted. Adventurers will be stuck with cheaply made broad and shortswords, while professional fighters might use two handed swords.
The accepted mode of getting otherwise unobtainable information is to go visit the cranky old hermit living in the mountains. It's just the sensible thing to do. So, naturally, everyone takes their monthly excursion to the hermit's hovel to consult him on everything, from lock-jaw to lovesickness, necromancers to nasal viruses.
Now, if everyone's always visiting the poor old hermit, there's going to be an enormous queue... "Wellcome to the Hermitt's Hovele, Please Take Ye a Number and Have Ye a Seate" reads the sign outside the packed dwelling.
Imagine the poor hermit, having retreated into the mountains to escape this precise situation...
The PCs are stuck in a town with a strict peace policy, the tiniest scuffle can land you years in prison. The town also happens to be a tourist haven, so inn-prices have skyrocketed. The only way the PCs can rest is if they splurge on a room, with their enemy.
It looks like a cook's book. It is a cook's book. It is also where the cook, who happened to be a master spy, encoded all his secrets and contacts. The book has innocently fallen into your group's hands. Everyone wants it, and many are not subtle or peaceful in their attempts.
If you want to add a "supernatural" touch to your campaign, define the rules of magic and the universe. Make your players comfortable with those rules. Then your new supernatural creatures must then break those rules.
The local temple is known for putting words of wisdom of stele, in and anround the temple. These words of wisdom are normally temple proverbs or wise words, but sometimes they are "singing the praises" of any large contributor or a noble who grants them a special law. If you need proverbs and quotes for them, search a few quote and proverb sites, concentrating on religions like the temples. Put these quotes in a word doc or list, that way you can always "whip out" a bit of wisdom.
War of the Roses as a campaign plot. Two noble lines converge somehow, each line thinks it has the rightful claim to the throne. Deciding this long ago was handled by some divine intervention, requiring both houses to come together at some point. They aren't so willing to get together this time. Civil war, or a new king?
When the characters approach a clearing in the forest, they will see 4 ogres who are guarding, and preventing from escape, 4 human males, and 3 human females. The ogres will see the party and leap to attack. The females will scream "OUR SAVIORS!!" and run screaming straight across the currently forming battlefield, in between ogres and party members, to hide behind the rearmost party members. They will be safe there. The males will try to skirt the battle to the north side to join the women.
To the south, giants will be hiding in the thick underbrush until the party has engaged the ogres and then attack the most opportune target EXCEPT the ones that the females are next to.
It should be noted that the female commoners are not female commoners at all, nor are the male commoners actually male commoners. The female commoners are the hags, who have polymorphed themselves as the commoners in their stewpot to escape detection. The males skirting the battle are actually MORE ogres, the hags were in the process of polymorphing ALL the ogres into regular humans for ambush purposes. The REAL commoners are already dead, having found their way into the coven's cauldron for dinner.
The hags (the women) will position themselves near to any spellcasters in the rear first, and then near anyone else in the back of the fight. The ogres (the men) will wait until the hags shift form, and then attack first the rear folks, then shift into the melee.
It is possible that the characters, as they approach the ogres, will notice the giants in the bush, and be able to warn the others of the ambush.
GAME NOTES: If you sell the screaming women correctly, they will not even be suspected until it is too late. Therein lay the problem. This encounter is ESPECIALLY deadly to the rear eschelon of the party. It is entirely possible that the hags will finish off half the party before they even realize they have been duped. Caution is required if the game master wishes to avoid a TPK(total party kill).
No one is allowed to do harm to those of Highest/ Imperial rank, those of the Imperial household or those related within two steps of blood. The second tradition is an executioner must be of a higher rank than those he executes. This leads to "issues" when someone tries to harm a member of the Imperial clan or when these members are subversive. Such people are often killed by the being chained under a giant bell. They die within a day or so from the vibration, but they die untouched by Human hands.
The Church of the one true God guards a terrible secret: Their God is dying. He is kept within a tank, steamworks forever pumping to keep him alive, clockwork engines forcing his laboured breathing.
Sneezing Sickness - A strange plant infection that causes its victim to spread the plants seeds by sneezing them about. Larger lumps of phlegm or saliva sprout is spat out in a sunny place, producing more of the plants. As the Magical version of seasonaly allergies the affliction is limited in term and non-life threatening.
A desolate region is almost entirely without normal vegetation. Local plants are able to unroot themselves and crawl along the ground in search of water and fertile soil. The inhabitants fence their crops in to keep them from wandering off and put heavy stone thresholds in the doorways of their huts to keep wayward plants out.
The plants sense by chemical cues, lacking sight or hearing, and tend to avoid herbivores or anything that smells of "dead plants". Characters with horses are likely to be unwelcome among the locals.